Arianna is an amalgam of nudity and nature in their purest senses.
While certainly not a film to watch with family, it is a fascinating character study and an assessment of gender and sex on a level that has not been explored quite like this before.
Watching the titular character, Arianna, go through her puberty at a very late stage, age nineteen, is breathtaking. She is shy and nervous, but impatient as well, complaining about her growing breasts to her doctor father- they aren’t growing fast enough! And they hurt! Growing pains, her father explains patiently before he and her mother let her spend a few days alone at the country house. Once on her own, Arianna is able to explore the town and herself to her own content.
The nudity in the piece is bookended by nature scenes so that it never becomes sexualized, even when Arianna is explicitly having sex. Her tentative explorations of her own sex on her own, staring in the mirror, or checking for blood in between her legs, begin to remind her of early childhood, of memories of not having a body like this. And her intercourse with a boy her age leads to a breakdown when she begins to feel as though her body is attacking itself. She doesn’t understand the body she lives in, and she’s afraid.
The beauty of the piece really comes through Arianna’s unashamed curiosity and determination to discover her own truth. Inter sexuality hasn’t been covered very much in media, but the way it’s done here isn’t clinical or meant to be. Instead, it is a love story for a girl and her own self, finding out the truth that her family has been hiding from her for years. It’s heartbreaking to watch her realize, but heartening to see her take charge of her own identity. Identity is a common struggle for teenagers, but this takes it to a whole new level. At the end of the film, Arianna says simply:
“I either accept that I am a living error, or I find my own math.”
And she’s right. It’s a lesson that can be applied to anything, but one especially telling in a world where we are beginning to challenge preconceived notions of gender and sexuality. This film is a feat not just in cinematography or acting, but in saying something that’s been said before, but needs to be said again and again. No humans are errors. We’re simply different.
We screened the film at Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, which was co-organized with Istituto Luce Cinecittà in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute of New York.